A yr after the U.S. pullout from Afghanistan, refugees are nonetheless struggling to resettle

Inside a two-bedroom residence in Sacramento, three siblings laughed as they watched an keen group of contestants competing to win a Lamborghini on a YouTube stream.

Zabiullah Musafer, 43, and his spouse, Yalda, 34, shook their heads at their youngsters, content material that the present — nevertheless ridiculous — was serving to them study English one yr after they fled Afghanistan and moved to California to hunt asylum.

In some ways, Musafer mentioned, America has offered him and his household with the security and alternative that they had hoped for. He rapidly discovered a full-time job at an Apple warehouse. His youngsters — Sefatullah, 18; Rabia, 16; Muqaddas, 12; and Subhanullah, 10 — are enrolled at school. He and Yalda take English-language programs. Many in Yalda’s household immigrated to California a number of years in the past, throughout an earlier part of the U.S. occupation, and on weekends the Musafers spend time together with her sister’s household, cooking collectively or exploring Northern California.

Zabiullah Musafer, 43, spouse Yalda, 34, and son Sefatullah, 18, at their new residence in Sacramento on Aug. 17, 2022.

(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Occasions)

However their new life isn’t with out its challenges.

Musafer’s youngsters share one bed room; his two daughters share a mattress. His ideas usually drift to these left behind in Afghanistan and what their futures maintain. He isn’t clear on his immigration standing: Though he spoke with a resettlement company about his asylum software practically 5 months in the past, he hasn’t heard again since that preliminary screening.

“Of course, I worry,” he mentioned, because the sound of individuals vying for the lime inexperienced sportscar blared within the background. “I am always thinking about that. I call my caseworker, and he says he’s trying to do what he can. I can’t afford a lawyer, so I am still waiting for help.”

About 94,000 Afghan nationals, U.S. residents and everlasting residents have been evacuated from Afghanistan throughout Operation Allies Welcome — the Biden administration’s ongoing effort to resettle susceptible Afghans, together with those that labored on behalf of the U.S. — in line with the Division of Homeland Safety. They embrace greater than 85,000 Afghan nationals who’ve settled in states resembling Texas, California, Virginia, Washington and Pennsylvania. Of these, greater than 77,000 have been paroled into the U.S. on a case-by-case foundation for humanitarian causes, for a two-year interval, DHS mentioned.

The journey from their residence nation is one marked by hardship and the necessity for swift adjustment — in addition to hope for his or her futures.

A masked man and three girls look at a box held by a woman, right, as another woman, left, holds open a colorful backpack
Rahmat Gul Safi, left, appears to be like on as youngsters, from left, Bus Bibi, 4, Zinab Safi, 3, and Shabo Gul, 8, acquire free back-to-school provides from members of Des Moines Refugee Assist, a volunteer group that’s assembly the burgeoning wants of newly arrived Afghan refugees in Iowa, on Aug. 6, 2022.

(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Occasions)

A woman in a head covering and holding a notebook, right, points to a phone held out by a woman seated next to her

Sadye Katherine Scott-Hainchek, 36, left, a volunteer, helps Afghan refugees resembling Medina Mohammadi, 28, fill out asylum paperwork in Des Moines on Aug. 7, 2022.

(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Occasions)

Some Afghans who’ve resettled right here say that the toughest a part of beginning a brand new life has been navigating the crimson tape to enroll in social companies, discovering housing and understanding methods to file for asylum with little steerage. Others level to the issue in reconciling a earlier lifetime of working for the federal government or army in Afghanistan with working low-wage jobs in America, and out of the blue discovering themselves on the backside of the financial and social ladder, usually remoted by language and tradition.

Many are targeted each on the U.S. and the house they left behind, concentrating on constructing their new lives whereas additionally maintaining a tally of, and generally sending cash to, colleagues and family members who stay underneath Taliban rule again residence.

A bipartisan group of senators launched laws this month to ascertain a pathway to everlasting authorized standing for Afghan evacuees. The proposal, known as the Afghan Adjustment Act, would supply an alternative choice for these pursuing everlasting authorized standing by way of the asylum system or the particular immigrant visa program. Each choices are hampered by extreme backlogs and lengthy processing instances.

Musafer and different current Afghan immigrants are watching the proposal intently.

“Our fellow armed service members of the Afghan army, the airborne division, and special force units are still stuck back home,” mentioned Musafer, a former fixed-wing squadron commander in Afghanistan’s air drive. “I urge the U.S. government not to abandon the evacuation process and ultimately not abandon the people of Afghanistan.”

A dark-haired man holds a sleeping baby against his shoulder

Afghan refugee Ali Zafar Mehran, 36, along with his month-old daughter, Serena, who was born in California.

(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Occasions)

About 10 miles from Musafer’s residence, Ali Zafar Mehran questioned why the resettlement course of for Afghans hasn’t gone extra easily. Since arriving within the U.S. in April, Mehran, 36, has struggled to seek out housing. His caseworker informed him that it may take months for the resettlement company to assist him discover a place to stay. He rapidly bumped into the difficult crimson tape of the healthcare system when looking for an reasonably priced physician for his pregnant spouse.

“This resettlement system and refugee services are not fair,” mentioned Mehran, who labored as a finances advisor for the Justice Sector Assist Program — a world partnership with the U.S. and Afghan governments to assist reform the Afghan prison justice system and curb the circulation of narcotics. “Some of my friends received good services. But most are in bad situations like me.”

His resettlement company didn’t assist him discover a residence, he mentioned. Once they arrived in California, Mehran, his spouse and 6-year-old daughter lived with an Afghan good friend in Modesto for about 20 days, he mentioned, although his good friend’s residence didn’t have sufficient room for all of them.

He discovered his present residence by way of one other good friend, who mentioned he knew the leasing workplace supervisor in a posh within the Arden Arcade space the place many Afghans have resettled. Not like different locations that Mehran had discovered, this residence didn’t require a co-signer with excessive earnings to again his software.

He moved in instantly. However as a result of he transferred to a different county, Mehran mentioned, the resettlement company closed his case.

Mother braids hair of daughter while father is holding newborn baby.

Ali Zafar Mehran, 36, and spouse Karima, 31, together with their daughters Sutooda, 6, and 1-month-old Serena, are Afghan refugees who’ve resettled in Sacramento.

(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Occasions)

Mehran used his “welcome money,” about $3,500 disbursed by the resettlement company, to pay for the residence that he has furnished with hand-me-downs and objects he’s salvaged from the road. His spouse, Karima, 31 — a former nurse who gave delivery to their second daughter after transferring to California — sleeps on a mattress he pulled from the trash. The ornamental pillow instances that he introduced from Afghanistan are additionally stuffed with issues he discovered within the rubbish.

He borrowed roughly $12,000 from mates to buy a automobile, a rug and different home goods.

“I really didn’t expect it, that life will start like this in the United States,” Mehran mentioned. “I have lots of other problems. I must earn money to send to my parents in Afghanistan.”

Every month, he receives roughly $1,400 from Sacramento County within the type of money help and meals stamps. His lease, earlier than utilities, is $1,465. He just lately began a job at a liquor retailer and works in meals supply when he can.

“I have a master’s degree in finance, and more than 10 years of experience,” Mehran mentioned, sitting on his front room ground. “I can do nothing because there is a wrong system for refugees.”

When the Afghan authorities collapsed after the U.S. withdrawal final yr, one of many first modifications many Afghans and outsiders feared was the potential crackdown on ladies underneath a resurgent Taliban. For years, ladies there had come to prize their freedoms — working in authorities, journalism and different previously male-only occupations and going to highschool and faculty.

Working towards their objectives was not with out its difficulties, Afghan ladies say, however they made hard-won progress. And for a era of Afghan ladies who had by no means skilled Taliban rule, it was the one upbringing they knew.

This yr, Taliban officers determined that ladies shouldn’t be allowed to go to highschool after finishing the sixth grade. Officers additionally issued a brand new costume code for ladies showing in public, stipulating that solely their eyes ought to be seen, after banning ladies from taking long-distance street journeys alone in December.

A portrait of a woman with short dark hair and dark top and a serious expression

Zahra Karimi, 26, an Afghan refugee and member of the Hazara minority, narrowly escaped the bombing assaults exterior Kabul airport through the U.S. withdrawal in August 2021. She has resettled in Seattle.

(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Occasions)

At 26, Zahra Karimi had spent a lot of her life in Afghanistan as an unbiased lady. She confronted challenges as a member of the Hazara ethnic group, she mentioned, however she was nonetheless in a position to pursue her schooling and work for the Afghan authorities. All that modified Aug. 26, 2021, when she slogged for hours by way of the Kabul airport and left her nation by herself after dropping her mates within the crush of people that had poured into the world. The journey left her legs bloodied, minimize by the razor wire positioned all through the airport for safety.

“I had never seen the Taliban in person,” she mentioned in Dari. “I’d only seen them on television or on the news.”

Regardless of that, Karimi mentioned, she knew that the Taliban wouldn’t need a younger lady like her to proceed working. Ladies again residence stay in worry and anxiousness, she mentioned, and she or he is aware of she may by no means stay a life the place she can be anticipated to remain residence with out the choice to work.

Sitting in entrance of her laptop computer in her Seattle residence on a current weekday, Karimi practiced her English in a web based class. She flipped by way of a binder of notes as they reviewed correct grammar.

“What is your work schedule?” her teacher requested the category. Karimi glanced at a listing of potential solutions.

“No. 3, I work every day,” she replied in an excited rush. “Teacher, No. 3!”

A woman seated on the floor holds papers and a pencil

Afghan refugee Zahra Karimi now spends most of her time studying English and dealing full time to fulfill the challenges of constructing a brand new life in the US.

(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Occasions)

A couple of minutes later, she walked into the kitchen, the place she had ready a standard Afghan breakfast of eggs blended with tomatoes and began to make tea. Karimi answered questions from the range as she heated up some bread.

“They leave people alone here and you’re able to live your own life,” she mentioned, switching again to Dari. “People are so kind when they learn I came alone as a woman to start my life.”

She works in a resort cafeteria and hopes to check nursing.

Nonetheless, she mentioned, there are issues she misses — massive elements of her life like her household, whose photographs hold over her mattress, and smaller moments like sharing a meal together with her girlfriends on Thursdays. When she thinks concerning the individuals she left behind, she feels distressed.

“My family is the most important thing to me,” she mentioned. “My friends call me and say, ‘Zahra, it’s good that you left.’ They’re at home; that’s it.”

A woman and a man holding a child, seen from behind, walk on a beach toward other beachgoers

Meena Mosazai, 30, her husband, Matan Atal, 23, and their baby, Moska, 1, go to a park close to their residence in Seattle on Aug. 12, 2022.

(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Occasions)

A woman with dark hair, right, kisses a child held by a man with dark hair in a park setting

Mosazai provides Moska a kiss.

(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Occasions)

At any time when Meena Mosazai’s husband watches information about Afghanistan, she tells him she doesn’t wish to know what’s taking place as a result of it’s at instances an excessive amount of for her to bear. A former journalist and NGO employee, the 30-year-old fled Kabul, the capital, as a result of she fearful her years within the media would make her a goal.

“Some women when they make it to the top, they sacrificed lots of things,” she mentioned. “After the Taliban came in, even those people — that woman who sacrificed, who got a job, who got a name for themselves — they lost it.”

For Mosazai, one of many hardest elements of Taliban rule to look at is the repeal of ladies’s schooling. Schooling has been necessary all through her life, she mentioned — she likes to learn and believes each lady ought to have the chance to study what they’d like.

She tears up when she thinks of her nieces dropping the alternatives she was afforded.

“We try to be happy here. I’m not only thinking about my family, I’m thinking of the entire generation,” she mentioned, dabbing at her eyes with a shawl. She checked out her daughter, Moska, 1, toddling round the lounge. “I cannot imagine if she would grow up [under] the Taliban, that she would not be educated.”

Seema Rezai locked herself in her Kabul bed room when the Taliban retook the town. She cried every night time, questioning how she may stay underneath a authorities that will maintain her away from the game that had change into an integral a part of her identification: boxing.

A portrait of a woman standing in front of a tree

Seema Rezai is an Afghan refugee and a light-weight boxing champion who resettled in Seattle.

(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Occasions)

Rezai, 19, was on her strategy to the gymnasium when the Taliban arrived in Kabul. She skilled together with her coach that day, however he recommended she head residence as quickly as attainable. He suggested her to not come again, however she couldn’t keep away.

“The Taliban came inside our gym, because people told them that there was a girl that [is] training inside,” mentioned Rezai, who lives close to Seattle together with her mother and father and three siblings. “They talked with me, they talked with my coach…. They took all of my information, my name, everything. They said, ‘Where do you live at?’ I was afraid.”

The Taliban arrived at her doorstep the subsequent day and instructed her father to not enable his daughter to go to the gymnasium. Rezai felt damaged.

“My friends, the Afghan girls, they’re stuck back home,” she mentioned. “And I think I’m guilty about that.”

{The teenager} discovered herself within the unfamiliar position of breadwinner when she and her household arrived in Washington. She discovered a job working on the entrance desk of a Seattle resort, and later discovered her mother and father jobs too. When she isn’t working, she trains on the gymnasium in pursuit of her purpose of becoming a member of the Refugee Olympic Crew as a boxer in 2024 — a place she hopes will put Afghan ladies, and their struggles, within the highlight.

“When I can be a champion … I can be a voice [for] them in the world,” she mentioned. “Then the world can listen to me.”

A woman with dark hair and a dark top stands with her eyes closed
Afghan refugee Basira Mohammadi, 24, shares a two-bedroom residence in Modesto with a household of fellow refugees. She is concentrated on studying English and discovering full-time employment earlier than tackling an even bigger problem: making use of for asylum.

(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Occasions)

Others who fled Afghanistan left as a result of they felt they’d by no means be protected, regardless of any Taliban claims of so-called common amnesty for individuals who had labored with overseas forces.

The day the final American army aircraft left Kabul, Shir Agha Safi arrived within the U.S.

A army man, he led a whole lot of troopers in Helmand province in anti-terrorism missions and the combat towards insurgents. He knew he would by no means survive if he stayed, so he left his residence after defending it for 20 years.

The second he landed, he needed to “disappear from everyone.”

As different Afghans arriving within the U.S. sought paths to both coast, Safi selected Iowa as a result of nobody else appeared to be going there. It wasn’t till different Afghans joined him within the following weeks that he realized many weren’t receiving the kind of help that they had anticipated. He stepped again into his position as a commander, volunteering to assist refugees by beginning a nonprofit with the intention of coaching Afghans to assist different Afghans.

He hopes to have the ability to assist with interpretation companies, to assist newcomers discover English-language programs and jobs, and to rearrange rides for his or her appointments — although he’s nonetheless settling in himself.

On an August night, Safi, 30, paced up and down a Des Moines road flanked by postwar properties and industrial buildings and tried to flag down a truck that was transporting donated furnishings to his new residence. The movers arrived and started carrying Victorian-style furnishings up the steps. One man requested Safi the place he was from.

“Afghanistan,” Safi mentioned.

A smiling man, left, shakes hands with another man with a tattoo on his arm

Shir Agha Safi, 30, left, is thanked by a mover in Des Moines for his army service in Afghanistan.

(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Occasions)

“Welcome to America,” one other mover replied.

The primary mover stayed quiet till he caught a glimpse of a photograph in Safi’s bed room that confirmed his days within the Afghan army. The mover shared that he had served within the U.S. army in Kunduz province. He thanked Safi for his service.

After swapping warfare tales, the pair completed establishing Safi’s new residence. The lads mentioned goodbye to the previous commander, illuminated by the crimson lights of the transferring truck.

Occasions overseas correspondent and photographer Marcus Yam contributed to this report.